[Editor’s Note: This article contains potential spoilers. While most of the article is purely speculation and is derived from publicly displayed footage and facts, it nevertheless discusses possibilities about the game. Furthermore, it does utilize the translation of the Sheikah text found on the parchment map in the limited editions of Breath of the Wild, which we have marked as spoilers in previous coverage. If you wish to remain innocent, you might want to avoid this discussion.]
Breath of the Wild is a Zelda game the likes of which we haven’t seen in an incredibly long time. With the exception of A Link Between Worlds, there really hasn’t been a modern Zelda game in history that threatens to hand you the reigns of the plot without any significant guidance. And even then, A Link Between Worlds was a game with a few helpful nudges. Breath of the Wild’s open-world nature hasn’t truly been paralleled since The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link. As a result, I didn’t really think it’d be possible to figure out how this game functioned until we managed to get our hands on the game… and even then only after about at least 10 to 20 hours of play.
But then, with my mind squarely somewhere else, I happened to stumble into a crazy connection—a connection that seemed too good, too likely, and too plausible to be ignored. And that one revelation, when taken to its logical conclusion, if true, begins to unravel the huge mystery behind the Guardians, Hyrule, and the Calamity Ganon.
Ganon is painting the town red
As we covered a few days ago, YouTube user Zeltik was able to translate the Sheikah text on the back of the parchment map within the limited edition bundle of Breath of the Wild. It bears another look over to use as a basis point for our investigation.
Hylians pass stories of a destined time long past, where multiple races lived and worked together in harmony. The Sheikah Tribe’s blue aura breathed through the land, and this mutual prosperity continued until a cataclysmic disaster struck. The hero and the princess attempted in vain to seal the terror which became known as the Calamity Ganon. Divine beasts awoke from four directions and deployed a mechanical army which made the king and his people fearful. They fractured Ganon’s power and sealed him, but the Sheikah were banished from the land ever since.
One of the things I’ve noticed since seeing the January trailer has been the symbolism of colors found in Breath of the Wild, something that is referenced directly within the text above. I’d been jokingly referring to the blue found on shrines and on both Link’s and Zelda’s tunics in the January trailer as “Sheikah blue.” After all, that evidence is everywhere, especially as found within the technological artifices shown in the demonstrations. Zeltik’s translation confirms this coloring-coding symbology isn’t just a joke; it’s actually an intentional design choice by the game’s developers.
But there are other prominent colors featured across the architecture of the land. First and foremost, there’s the orange that’s found on shrines throughout the world. This orange, however, appears to a transitory state on the shrines; it helps differentiate between the unactivated (or uncompleted) states and the activated (or completed) states of Sheikah technology within shrines and panels. Look throughout the trailers and the Treehouse footage of Hyrule, and you will see this theme of orange—and more importantly orange that transitions to blue—everywhere. Orange is coded in part as “incomplete objective,” an intentional color choice that allows players to find very quickly create lists of goals to accomplish when scanning upon high vantage points. However, from an in-game sense of things, orange symbolizes “off” whereas blue symbolizes “on,” just as how we have colored LEDs on our televisions, game consoles, and other technology to represent the same information.
And then there’s the pinkish-red of the Calamity Ganon. Just look into that swirling mass of black surrounding Hyrule Castle; there you can see it, all that pink goo within. You can even see it across the landscape, corrupting it with ooze that looks unpleasant just to stand in. This pinkish color represents not only the Calamity Ganon but also corruption. Notice what happens when Link gets too close to an otherwise peaceful blue Guardian minding its own business. Suddenly, there’s pink filling its eyes as that laser beam kicks into gear. Just as Zeltik has theorized in his video, I believe that Ganon has taken over the Guardians and turned them against the people of Hyrule, which would eventually lead to the Sheikah’s banishment from the land after the Calamity Ganon’s containment.
Deconstructing the divine beasts
Okay, so what, then? Big deal that colors mean something. You probably have noticed that already as well. How does that reveal the plot of Breath of the Wild?
Well, it doesn’t. More specifically, it doesn’t on its own. We need to leave that there for just a moment and catch up with it later.
So let’s take a walk back through memory lane to E3 last year when we were starting to hear about shrines for the first time. We were promised more than 100 shrines as mini-dungeons to be found throughout the game. But there was also an odd rumor that began making its way across the Internet around then that GameExplain popularized and Emily Rodgers seemed to affirm stating that Breath of the Wild would only have four main dungeons. The number seemed, well, obviously small, though certainly having over 100 shrines atop that makes that medicine go down a lot better. But think: There are only four real dungeons in the game? If that rumor actually is true, then we can run with this and find connections. So let’s look at some of the more recent revelations on the Sheikah map.
Four divine beasts.
On the back side of the map, where all the Sheikah writing from Zeltik is found, four “divine beasts” can be found. In each of the four corners of the map, we see these creatures unloading their swarm of mechanical beasts to surround the Calamity Ganon in the map’s center. The four beasts, starting from the northwest and going clockwise, are a flying bird, a crawling lizard, an elephant, and… perhaps a camel. Sure, let’s go with camel for the time being for lack of a better possibility.
Well, might I suggest that this bad boy over here, the walking creation shown in the latest trailer, is our camel?
It’s hard to say, to be perfectly frank. I mean, the only part of the beast that we can see is these four massive trunks as legs and a massive underbelly; there’s literally nothing above it that would identify it. This is, admittedly, rather unfortunate. Of the other three beasts on the map, the only thing it could possibly be is the elephant beast, but I’m going to call this incorrect for two reasons. The first reason is the weaker of the two; it just doesn’t remind me of an elephant; there’s no trunk to speak of, and the legs that we do see don’t entirely look anything like the elephant drawn on the map. The elephant’s legs are very stocky and thick, and it seems like the underbelly of the elephant should be lower to the ground. But the camel seems to fit much better. Those legs look similar to the legs on the drawing with an extremely high underbelly. It seems to fit.
The stronger piece of evidence, however, is that it appears in the desert.
The geography of Breath of the Wild’s Hyrule
We’ve seen a few maps of Hyrule, and the trailers have shown so much of Hyrule’s landscape. Central Hyrule has featured rather prominently along with its various landmarks. Death Mountain, the Twin Peaks, and many more prominent landmarks can be seen everywhere. But there are a few lesser known geographical places that are starting to look much more important within Hyrule.
The desert region lives in the far southwest of the map, the very same corner that our camel appears in.
GameXplain posted a video a long while ago several months after E3. They performed an extensive amount of analysis from previous Breath of the Wild trailers as well as their own detailed notes that pretty much outlined the basis for the upcoming game’s geography. Of note was the fact that they pretty much determined the precise locations of nearly every single one of the Sheikah towers for each region of the map as well as the geography and precise location of most of the scenes from earlier trailers.
As part of that analysis, they were the one to determine the precise location of the desert. Now, technically, much of that could have been guessed directly from the Nintendo Treehouse Live E3 video where they show the geography surrounding the Great Plateau in each direction of the game; however, the desert where our camel shows up can’t be seen from the Plateau itself. All we can do as a result is make inferences as to its location. At least, that’s what we’d have to do without the GameXplain footage, which concludes quite perfectly that the desert region lives in the far southwest of the map, the very same corner that our camel appears in.
It’s important to note, since we’re on the discussion of the camel, that its legs are rimmed with angry red energy whilst its feet (or at least the closest foot to the camera as the others shift hue as they fade into the distance) is a rather curious shade of pink. Remember how I spent a fair bit of time going into the secrets of the color coding system earlier? This is precisely why. Perhaps, like the Guardians themselves, the camel—and thus all four of the divine beasts—have been corrupted by the Calamity Ganon’s influence. Perhaps, therefore, these divine beasts are quite possibly bosses that must be overcome as part of the main storyline.
GameXplain also, while we’re discussing details, also reminds us of previous coverage from well before E3 where Eiji Aonuma showed off some of the first glimpses of Breath of the Wild, then an untitled game solely for the Wii U. To the southeast of the Great Plateau, there are two very interesting looking pillars that get some special attention in the original clip. We’re told, quite frankly, that those two pillars happen to be near a point that contains a dungeon. Now, what we can’t say for certain is whether or not these divine beasts are directly or only loosely correlated to the respective four dungeons in the game. They could very well be the final bosses of each dungeon, or perhaps they are a completely separate challenge that just so happens to exist within the same general geographic area. However, with four dungeons and four divine beasts, that’s a correlation that’s too likely to simply scoff at. But either way, this could help pinpoint the location of the elephant beast.
As for the final two within the northern areas of the map, those two can actually be determined much more simply, if we’re honest. First, we’re looking for some primary point of reference for the northeast where we might find a gigantic lizard. The northeast of the map is very mountainous, containing two very prominent peaks within the mountain range: Death Mountain and a cloud-covered mountain top even further east. As can be seen in the GameXplain video, there’s some sort of creature that’s climbing up and down the mountain. We’ll get to more on this later, but suffice to say that our lizard creature is likely living in one of these areas. And in fact, we very well might have seen this creature already; it’s hard to say if it’s sufficiently lizard-like given the weird perspective, but note that this takes place high within the snowy mountains, so it is a possibility.
Lastly, we’re looking for a flying bird that might live somewhere off in the northwest part of the map. But the recent trailer shows—just as Nintendo has shown in the past with their E3 coverage—that there’s a floating city in the sky far off near the northwest corner. This structure, as zoomed in on the GameXplain video, clearly shows something that almost seems to resemble an airplane. And in some ways, airplanes were originally inspired by the flight of birds, even though very different aspects of physics primarily govern each one. Though really the specifics unto themselves don’t matter. Could this city in the sky be a dungeon unto itself?
But speaking of the City of the Sky, how on earth will we get up there if that’s a dungeon? Or even if it’s a point of importance? GameXplain has one answer, but I think we have more evidence now to answer that properly than they did then. Because you see, the four dungeons and four divine beasts aren’t the only things that come in fours.
It’s dangerous to go alone; find some allies
Races also come in fours.
Okay, technically there are seven ally races that have had some sort of physical presence in Breath of the Wild. However, one of those is the Sheikah, which, as Zeltik presented earlier on, have been banished and, therefore, probably aren’t a significant presence to speak of. Then there’s also the Hylians and/or humans, which I’m going to classify as one unit for this purpose. While they’re certainly important, I think it’s safe to ignore this for one moment just because, when you see the “more interesting” connection of the other four races, it paints a more compelling picture. And thirdly, there’s the Koroks. However, the Koroks, as revealed from the Amazon posting for the game by Nintendo Everything, already seem to have a major sidequest associated with them collecting their 900 Korok seeds scattered throughout Hyrule. And moreover, they don’t fit as closely with the remaining four races, as you’ll soon see.
The January trailer to Breath of the Wild (re)introduced us to four of the most beloved of races from Zelda’s history: the Gorons, the Zoras, and what appear to be the Gerudo and the Rito, although these last two are more likelihoods than guarantees given the former is difficult to differentiate from Hylians except by hair color, (likely) skin color, and historically eye color whereas the latter don’t exactly resemble the appearance of the Rito of The Wind Waker Rito. Each of these four races, in the January trailer, are presented nearly back-to-back within the last minute of the video. The January trailer almost can be divided into thirds: the first third deals with the geography and the Master Sword; the second third deals with the Koroks, Zelda, and combat; and the final minute continues the combat but blends into the remaining four races mentioned. It’s this reason (along with the Korok Seeds) that I’m going to suggest the Koroks will likely be classified as not one of the four races up for grabs.
Now, about that City in the Sky question: How is it that we’re going to fly up all that way into the clouds to find that City in the Sky? Do you suspect that the Rito might be willing to befriend Link and fly him up there?
And in fact, if we assign the northwest quadrant of Hyrule as the Rito’s domain, suddenly the remaining three quadrants have direct one-to-one mappings with the remainder of the three other unique races. The northeast contains Death Mountain and a variety of other snow-capped mountain ranges; that sounds awfully like the Gorons’ home to me. (Indeed, that moving creature on the mountainside mentioned earlier could be a large Goron climbing.) The southwest is a barren desert wasteland with miles and miles of outstretched sand; that sounds like Gerudo territory, complete with a possible Gerudo town that we saw in the January trailer. And the southeast sector of the map eventually spills into the endless ocean at its far side as well as a possible Lake Hylia just southeast of the Great Plateau. And suddenly we’ve placed the Zora as well.
We have suddenly created the perfect symmetry between dungeons, divine beasts, and races of hyrule.
We find ourselves with one race assigned to every quadrant, which means one race assigned to every dungeon and divine beast. In other words, we’ve suddenly created the perfect symmetry between dungeons, divine beasts, and non-Hylian races of Hyrule.
Packaging it all up
This yields some amazing conclusions about what the prospective plot is going to be. First off, back at E3, we were told that it’s totally possible, after completing the Great Plateau, to head straight to the final boss of the game. Now I suspect that this is going to be incredibly difficult to do and, as a result probably won’t be on anyone’s docket the first time through. However, that it’s possible is intriguing; we won’t be required to defeat the four (or however many there are) dungeons to defeat the Calamity Ganon. Next up, we have been told that Breath of the Wild features multiple endings to the game. This brings a unique element to the game where, quite possibly, not defeating the four dungeons or meeting the four divine beasts or visiting the four races (and potentially even more) stand between you and (presumably) the “best ending” of the game.
So, what does this mean for the plot? What do I suspect we’re going to have to do to complete the game?
I suspect the overarching goal of the game is to spirit ourselves as fast as we can to the four corners of the map in order to find the homes of these four races of Hyrule. And from there, either by befriending their civilization or through their direct help, they will guide us to the four dungeons of Hyrule by which we will then earn encounters with the four divine beasts of Hyrule that attempted to save Hyrule from the Calamity Ganon 100 years ago. And by defeating them, somehow Link will be able to remove the Calamity Ganon’s influence from the four of them, restore them to proper working order, and then maybe they’ll give us some super sweet sword by which we can convert these impossible-to-kill Guardians into metal scrap and bolts with one swing of the blade. Possibly that’s where the Master Sword comes into play as we shake that rust and grime off of it.
Of course, this hand-waves over a couple crucial details of the game that the January trailer told us about through the various voice acting clips and cutscenes within. It doesn’t address where the Great Deku Tree lives, why we’d need to visit him, or what the Koroks are doing within the world. We know that there are hundreds and hundreds of Korok Seeds to collect in the world, and why we’d need to do so or what reward we’d get from it is a secret to everyone.
It also, of course, doesn’t address Zelda herself. These four dungeons and divine beasts can’t be the sum total of our experience; we have to heed the command we were given, “You must save her, my daughter.” How we encounter Zelda, what significance she’ll play in the eventual defeat of the Calamity Ganon, or if indeed her father is alive or he can be met are things that aren’t things we can deduce with this repetition of fours. Presumably, Zelda will be required for the best ending to the game (should one exist).
And of course, this doesn’t even remotely touch on the sidequests or the 100+ shrines secreted about Hyrule. What sort of rewards we will eventually get by completing them is a complete mystery. Presumably, they’ll grant some sort of sweet rewards, but who knows if they’ll be “requirements” or not.
These four dungeons and divine beasts can’t be the sum total of Breath of the Wild; we have to heed the command: “You must save her, my daughter.”
But at its very essence, the symmetry between the races, regions, divine beasts, and dungeons seems eerily uncanny. It just doesn’t seem possible that this is all just some big coincidence.
To be perfectly honest, I actually hope that I’m completely and utterly wrong in my theory. Or at least, if I’m right, that the plot that I’ll get to experience in just a handful of weeks has sufficient surprises yet to be uncovered that I’m going to be blown away by the plot. I don’t want the combination of a wild rumor, a secret translation, and a sudden realization to prove to be the only elements needed to have deduced the game’s plot. But at the same time, there’s something so very elegant in this that it’s hard to not just take it as face-value truth.
Thoughts? Comments? Please, the floor is yours.